For years, environmental justice advocates have been saying that it’s time to shift the focus of the environmental movement from beautiful landscapes and big animals to the people choking on black carbon or poisoned by lead in their water.

Now, some of those people who grew up in dumping grounds have come into power and are shaping politics on the world stage. And when California sent a delegation to the U.N. climate conference in Bonn a few weeks ago, it was packed with members of the movement, including state Senator Ricardo Lara.

Lara grew up downwind of burning carcasses and diesel exhaust in Los Angeles. In his seven years in the California Legislature, he’s helped pass several laws to cleanup pollution and cut greenhouse gases. Lara sees himself as a champion for the environment as a whole, not just for environmental justice. The environmental justice goal of combating the health effects of living with pollution is increasingly shared throughout the environmental movement.